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February 19, 2014

Russian Men's Hockey Team Fails to Medal

by Mike Richman

The Russian men's ice hockey team has again come up empty handed in its quest for an Olympic gold medal.

At the Bolshoi Ice Dome Wednesday in Sochi, Finland eliminated Russia from the tournament with a 3-1 win in the quarterfinals, putting a stunning end to the Russians' hopes of winning gold on their turf.  Finland's Teemu Selanne and Mikael Granlund each had a goal and an assist, and teammate Tuukka Rask made 37 saves.

Russian teams have not won an Olympic gold medal in hockey since 1992.  Four years ago in Vancouver, they were eliminated in the quarterfinals by Canada.

Russian spectators poured out of the Bolshoi Ice Dome disappointed that their team, one of the favorites in Sochi, failed to advance.

"I just don't have any words right now," said one Russian fan who was in tears.  "This was a home Olympics.  We didn't have the right to make a mistake.  We made a mistake.''

Another fan was also at a loss for words but at least had a smile on his face.

"We hoped for a win, but it came out as usual," he said.  "What can you do?  We'll cheer for another team.  Of course, we always believe in, love our Russian team.  But recently, for some reason they let us down.  We have no words, just disappointment.  You saw it yourself.''

In the men's semifinals on Friday, Finland will play Sweden and Canada will play the United States.  All four teams won their quarterfinal games on Wednesday.   

The Canadian and U.S. women vie for the gold medal on the ice on Thursday.  Canada, which is seeking its fourth straight Olympic gold, nipped the U.S. in a preliminary round game, 3-2.

Record for Olympic Gold Medals

Also Wednesday, Norwegian biathlon star Ole Einar Bjoerndalen won a 13th gold medal, the most ever at the Winter Olympics.  He helped spark Norway's team that finished first in the mixed biathlon relay.

It was Bjoerndalen's second gold medal in Sochi, following a first-place finish in the biathlon 10-kilometer sprint.

Winning the sprint made the 40-year-old Bjoerndalen the oldest Winter Olympic gold medalist in an individual sport.  He broke the mark held by Canadian skeleton racer Duff Gibson, who was 39 when he won gold at the 2006 Turin Olympics.

Norway also won gold Wednesday in the women's cross country relay.

Norway's Marit Bjoergen and Flugstad Oestberg finished first in the race, where teams of two women each perform three alternate sprints.  It was Bjoergen's fifth Olympic gold medal and second at the Sochi Games.

In other medal events Wednesday, Finland took advantage of a fall by Germany on the final descent to win gold in the men's team cross country sprint.  The Finnish duo of Sami Jauhojaervi and Iivo Niskanen posted the winning time.  

​​American skier Ted Ligety won gold in the first ever Olympic giant slalom title for the United States.  Two Frenchmen, Steve Missillier and Alexis Pinturault, won the silver and bronze medals respectively.

"To be the first gold medalist in giant slalom for the U.S. is a pretty cool feeling," Ligety said.  "It's cool to be able to know that you're among some of the U.S. legends of the sport and adding to that tradition of ski racing in the U.S."

Switzerland's Patrizia Kummer won the first ever women's parallel giant slalom snowboarding event, and Russia's Vic Wild won the men's competition.

In women's 5,000-meter speedskating, Martina Sablikova of the Czech Republic defended her Olympic title with a record time of six minutes, 51.54 seconds.  The Dutch won silver and bronze.

Also, Canada's Kaillie Humphries and Heather Moyse won their second straight Olympic women's bobsledding gold medal.
 
South Korean Figure Skater in Lead

In the women's figure skating short program, South Korea's Kim Yu-Na scored 74.92 points, giving her a .28 lead on Russia's Adelina Sotnikova.  Kim is trying to become the first back-to-back champion in the event since 1988.  Fifteen-year-old Julia Lipnitskaia of Russia, who emerged as a star last week while helping Russia win gold in the first ever team competition, fell on a triple flip and is in fifth place.     

In women's curling, Canada and Sweden will play for the gold medal for the second straight Olympic Games after winning semifinals that each went to the final shot on Wednesday.  The Canadian men will play for the gold against Britain. 

After 12 days of competition in Sochi, the United States leads in total medals with 23.  Russia and the Netherlands are tied with 22 apiece, followed by Norway with 20, Canada 18 and Germany 15.  In gold medals, Norway leads with nine and Germany has eight.
 
Some information for this report comes from AP, AFP and Reuters.